The Florida Panthers have big plans for this offseason, and it started today by getting a top prospect under contract. The team announced they have agreed to terms with Aleksi Heponiemi on a three-year entry-level contract. GM Dale Tallon released a statement regarding his new prospect:
We are thrilled to have agreed to terms with Aleksi. He is an immensely skilled and dynamic player with excellent vision and hockey IQ. Aleksi has been an elite player at every level and a leader on winning teams on the junior and international stages. We look forward to Aleksi’s development with the Panthers and believe he will be an important part of our organization’s success for years to come.
Heponiemi, 20, was selected 40th overall in 2017 but with hindsight may have deserved to go even higher. The Finnish forward oozes offensive potential, and showed it off in 2017-18 by scoring 148 points in 83 games with the Swift Current Broncos. After dominating the WHL he left for Finland this season and ended up with 46 points in 50 regular season games for Karpat, good for 12th in the entire league. While he struggled in the playoffs, there’s good reason to believe that Heponiemi will turn into a productive player for the Panthers down the line.
That 2017 draft also produced Owen Tippett for the Panthers, another top offensive player that could make waves for them in the near future. Add those two to others like Henrik Borgstrom, Grigori Denisenko and Serron Noel and you have the makings of another wave of forward talent for new head coach Joel Quenneville to mold. With stars like Aleksander Barkov already in their prime for the NHL club, and the Panthers expected to go hard after some top free agents this summer, things are looking up in Florida.